An Interview with Feisal Abdul Rauf
Feisal Abdul Rauf, the name is popular enough among cross religion in United States. Not merely because he is an imam of Al-Farah mosque which only 12 block distance from World Trade Center building which was completely ruined in tragedy of 9/11/2001 bombing. But, more because of his diligent to attend church and sinagog to give discourse about Islam. That way also, he come up frequently in radio broadcast and television in America to straighten the wrong view and bias perception about Islam.
How many jamaah are in your mosque?
Its about 400 people are coming every Friday prayer. But, because of our small mosque, we perform it twice. We start to do this since last two year because jamaah grow more and more. First Friday prayer start at 01.00 pm, finished at 01.40. Afterwards start second shift from 01.40 to 02.30 pm. First sermon usually shorten, about 10 to 15 minutes, while secondly up to half an hour. I usually preach down in second shift.
How is the live condition of moslem in America in the early days?
At that time moslem community in America was not too big. Only about some hundred thousands. But now American moslem estimated more than 7 million people. Islam now become most expanding religion in America. At that time not many Americans believe in religion. But now they return to religion. They now more serious look into religion.
Do you ever feel being suspected by west attitude?
Sometimes, yes. But along with nun of time, people change. The rising generation in America now time do not have attitude like their predecessor. Their grandfathers have a different point of view on moslem society. But the young generation doesn't. It is true that westerner see us with different view, but now has changed. I have lectured in Texas and came in contact with adolescently of Latin America and tell a story that his closed friend is a young Pakistani and he often hears about Islam from that family.
Do many American people assume Islam as terrorist?
After WTC tragedy, of course there were fears to terrorism. It is true about the existence of assuming on moslem as terrorist. But there also people whose contrary view. One of our duties is to explain that we are not merely terrorist, but also explain why that happened. In my discourse before Senate members and congressman, I said that many angry moslems to America because of its overseas politics.
In consequence, America has to change their overseas politics. America did not treat Islamic world real correctly. This is elementary matter. This conflict was not caused by religion issues, but because of any miscellaneous like economics etc. Now, more congressmen frown upon Bush governance. They wish American Government behave better to Islam world. Their wish to conduct dialogued.
So, what is the root of west-Islam conflict?
West-Islam conflict was triggered by three issues. Firstly is political issue, like Palestinian, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Secondly is how west media depict Islam. They are writing down more news about pro-Israel. Third is behavioral difference. In West, people trust in dissociation between politics and church. But, moslem frown upon that dissociation. Moslems believe that a state have to express islamic values.
How do you link the differences in those three areas?
I lead an institute called as Cordoba Initiative with aim to repair American relation with Islam world. One of our projects is to invite intellectual moslem to formulate modern ijma (kind of religion agreement), especially from all fuqaha (jurist of Islamic law), about the existence of Islamic state. What is Islamic state and how we define it. We believe the problem of Islamic state whether exist or not can be defined operationally. In Indonesia, for example, we invite Syafii Maarif to get involved in this ijma on Islamic state.
We've been too focused on islam, non on faith. Though, if you see Al-Quran, not even once Allah said; "oh.. moslems!" but Allah always said; "Oh..believers". This as if an order to focus on faith, on heart. If you pay more attention on its language, those who called as a real followers of prophet are believers, not moslems. Moslems were not automatically believers. We still try in order to become believer. And I feel that we have forgotten about this matter, we reduce faith become merely Islam. That was my concern.
Related to extreme group, what have you done?
I try to find their aim. I believe, every body pursues a justice. All important things in Islamic law are justice. So, if they look for justice, how is the best way to reach it? Do they pursue justice by their own judgment, or try to change law? People become radical because of their frustration them and don't know how to change the situation with no violence.
Your view on terrorism?
What is that terrorism? An American military historian defines terrorism as usage of civilian for the purpose of politics. That's terrorism. America rules a sanction on Iraq after gulf war. When you sentence Saddam Hussein by applying economic sanction, you punish his people.
That sanctions cause economic depression. The impact was not hit Saddam Hussein him self or rich peoples, but hit middle-lower class. Middle class become poor and lower class become starve, no medicine, and finally die. UN notes, 1 million Iraq civilian die as an effect of economic sanction since 1992. This cause enragement and finally generate terrorism to America.